Applications Are Now Closed

Applications closed on Friday, February 18th, 2022, at Midnight.

First Leap guidance will be delivered by experts in business fundamentals as well as experienced creative business owners. Participating entrepreneurs will hone the skills needed to build sustainable and impactful creative businesses, culminating in an actionable business plan presentation. First Leap participants will experience below.

  • Learn from experienced creative business owners who work hard and smart to realize creative fulfillment, financial resilience, and social impact
  • Hear from experts on topics such as contract considerations, business finances, product photography, and marketing success
  • Develop actionable business plan presentations that incorporate the considerations outlined during the course, including brand assets, target audience decisions, and other building blocks


  • Identifies as an artist, maker, designer, craftsperson, and/or small-batch manufacturer. Visit PG&H to see the types of creative businesses that may be a good fit.
  • Aspires to become a full or part-time creative business owner
  • Located in western Pennsylvania
  • Participating or willing to participate in CBA
  • Willing to complete pre-and post-program surveys


  • Minority, women, and/or veteran-owned creative businesses and/or entrepreneurs
  • Creative businesses and entrepreneurs living or operating in low to moderate-income areas
  • Creative entrepreneurs who aspire to operate a full-time business

Short and Long Term Goals

Phase One: Build the Plan

Seven weeks of intensive sessions to create guiding documentation that establishes strong foundations
  • Learn from an experienced creative business owner and a team of business management experts
  • Outline, understand and answer the fundamental questions shaping your creative business
  • Define the operational and financial goals to move toward in Phase Two with ongoing CBA support

Phase Two: Start the Plan

Six months of steady action to access capital, space, markets, peers, workforce, and guidance for growth
  • Partner with CBA team members and creative business coaches to make meaningful progress
  • Pursue the space, capital, and workforce needs to scale, sustain, and have a social impact in your community
  • Tackle challenges and breakdown barriers holding your creative business back from success


2022 First Leap Participants

Lauren Bailey

Crony Press

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Isaac Beachy

Isaac’s Glass Co.

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Sophia Fang

Sophia Fang Art

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Nathan Gregg

Design Maker 21

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Rebecca Hawkett

Winter Pickle Press

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Tressa Jones

Berlin Way Studios

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Ignacio Lopez

Lopez & Sons PGH


Marce Nixon-Washington


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V Ondra


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Gabriela Ortiz

Gabriela Ortiz Art and Design, LLC

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Seiko Sisco

Waku Waku Baby

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Tarah & Tayler Wright

T.W.O. Branch Media

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In March 2021, First Leap worked with twelve creative businesses to develop the confidence and capacity for business growth.

Learn more about their processes and products. CHECK OUT THE COHORT

Program Facilitators

Katie Johnson

Associate Director of the Creative Business Accelerator

Before the CBA, Katie was Director of Braddock Tiles, a non-profit business that produces small batch architectural tiles with youth to teach job readiness skills. Before her role at Braddock Tiles, she worked in development for the YWCA of Western North Carolina as a Donor Stewardship Manager, where she worked closely with senior staff to help develop lasting community relationships. With her extensive experience in the arts and non-profit sector, Katie brings a unique set of skills to provide artists, designers, and craftspeople with better access to technical assistance, peer network interactions, grant capital, and opportunities to build their workforce through job creation.

Debbie Magyar

CEO of Virtual Business Design at Launch and Balance Consulting

Debbie is a business strategist assisting small businesses with strategic business planning and digital marketing solutions at any stage of the business life cycle. As an entrepreneur of 20 years, she understands the challenges of working in and on a business. Debbie is the CEO of Launch and Balance Consulting LLC, a nationally certified women-owned business, by WBENC, and brings her expertise in small business advising, real estate development, finance, digital marketing, SBIR/STTR programs, and operations to support small business advancement in the region. Debbie received her BA from the University of Kentucky and her MBA from Mount Vernon Nazarene University. She is a certified commercialization specialist and certified in Google Digital Marketing.

Session Dates

Monday Evenings

From 5:30 PM – 7:30 PM

March 14th – April 25th



Session Topics

Session 1: The Company Overview

  • Unpacking your goals for launching/growing a creative business
  • Developing a business concept around your creative output
  • Designing your unique value proposition, mission, and vision
  • Developing a business plan outline for your business concept

Session 2: Defining Your Products & Services

  • Evaluating the deliverables (products, services, and pricing)
  • Understanding creative output and your target market
  • Promotion and distribution/economies of scale
  • Conducting a competitive and SWOT analysis

Session 3: Breaking Down the Market

  • Evaluating and sizing your market and sales potential
  • Developing short & long-term marketing strategies
  • Auditing your online presence and brand awareness
  • Balancing distribution channels, e-commerce, and storefronts

Session 4: Understanding the Business

  • Creating a sustainable action plan and sales strategy
  • Managing workflow processes and mindset
  • Defining and delegating business operations
  • Key partners, advisors, and technology for creative businesses

Session 5: Designing a Financial Forecast

  • Assessing your financial needs
  • Understanding budgeting & forecasting
  • Cash flow management
  • Introducing to financial statements and financial management

Session 6: Creating a Business Plan Summary & Pitch Deck

  • Techniques to deliver a business plan overview
  • Tools and templates to build content and collateral for a creative business
  • Design and presentation tips for pitching
  • Downloading and working with your new business plan

Session 7: Pitch Presentation

First Leap participants present their business plans to each other using pitch decks created over the previous six weeks.

The First Leap represents a new collaboration between two of the most effective organizations in the creative economy. The Center for Women’s Entrepreneurship (CWE) at Chatham University creates economic opportunities for women by providing high-quality entrepreneurial counseling, education, and training for women entrepreneurs. The Creative Business Accelerator program (CBA) at Bridgeway Capital, a nonprofit social impact investor, empowers regional artists makers, designers, and craftspeople to grow their businesses in ways that support equitable economic development. Have questions? Contact us to start a conversation.

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